So here we are. Mid-December. Holiday season.
And I can't help but ask myself how that is possible. It seems like Christmas always sneaks up on me. It's quiet and stealthy. One minute it's eighty degrees and sunny and the next you walk into your lobby and the doorman is putting up a Christmas tree and you think, "Huh, you don't see evergreens in the middle of August much, now do you?"
I think the problem is that, for the past four Christmases, at least, I have spent the days up until Christmas Eve studying for and taking finals.
And let me tell you, staring at a biochemistry textbook for hours at a time does not exactly put you in the right frame of mind to go wassailing or do any other activity that requires any sort of Christmas cheer.
So what would typically happen is that I would be there, up in Boston, cooped up in my room. Going stir crazy. Reaching that point of insanity where drawing chemical structures or signal transduction pathways on my wall with a sharpie was beginning to seem more and more like a good idea.
And all of a sudden it would be December 23rd and I would be on a plane flying into Laguardia, not quite sure where, when, or how my ticket had been purchased but awfully thankful that it had. (Maybe back around Thanksgiving when my life still seemed put together? When I actually had the wherewithall to be able to tell you what day of the week it was?)
And then, even more suddenly than all that, Christmas would be over. And thus another holiday season would have passed in which I had not enjoyed even one leisurely glass of hot apple cider or sat around one fireplace sipping marshmallow-laden hot chocolate.
A tragedy if ever I heard one.
But this year?
This year is going to be different.
I have a dream, you see. A dream that is filled with Christmas cookies. Ice skating (okay that one may have to be put on hold until this groin muscle thing finishes working itself out...I'm off the crutch but still limping slightly...progress - yes, cured - no). Decked halls. Boughs of holly. Gay apparel. And other such festive things.
Maybe I don't really need any figgy pudding. Not sure why, because I love figs, but figgy pudding just doesn't sound that appealing.
And then, of course, there are the Christmas parties. No season would be complete without a good party. The first of which that I attended was a potluck put together by FACES (Female Association of Clinicians, Educators, and Scientists) which is basically a group that was formed for the female MD/PhD students here at Cornell to try to promote gender equality and women's rights within our program. I, being the overachiever that I am, volunteered to bring a dessert (Cranberry Bliss Bars), some bread (I made dinner rolls from a pound of the challah dough), and an entree.
The entree, of course, being this delicious baked ziti. Because nothing says Christmas like the red and green of kale and tomato sauce in a cheesy baked pasta dish.
Wintry Baked Ziti
Serves a lot, probably 8-10
1 lb ziti
12 oz sweet Italian sausage
1 lb kale, leaves torn off the stalks
4 cloves garlic
3 carrots, diced into small pieces
1 tbsp oregano
28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb part-skim ricotta
1 cup part-skim mozzarella
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Set up a pot of water for the pasta.
2. Remove the sausage from its casings and cook until brown and crumbly. Remove from the pan and set aside, leaving the fat in the pan.
3. Lower the heat to medium low and add in the minced garlic and chopped onion. Cook until translucent. Add in the carrots. Cook 2-3 minutes. Stir in the oregano, sausage, and tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta for 2/3 of the time stated on the box. Add in the kale during the last minute. Drain.
5. Stir together the pasta, ricotta, and half of the sauce and pour into a 9x13 inch baking pan. Pour the rest of the sauce of the top. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is browned.
I am submitting this to Presto Pasta Nights which is being hosted this week by one of my favorite bloggers, the lovely Reeni of Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice.